This is a time of year when we all tend to make lists – Christmas lists, New Year’s lists, even lists of lists… Here is a list of All I Want For Christmas right here, right now, and for the New Year too… Well, maybe not all, but a good solid starting point. And you?
It is not the abstaining from alcohol that’s difficult and isolating—it’s the stubborn insistence that you either play along with faux revelry or keep quiet and drink your juice with a smile. It’s a false dichotomy: one that says you must either lie to yourself and others, or be miserable. You are either the whole, happy town of Whoville or the Grinch, determined to abscond with everyone else’s joy. This is why we sober people get quiet in groups of holiday revelers: We can’t quite play along, but we also don’t want to get in the way of your fun.
For some reason, cable companies seem to think having 200+ channels is a selling point. But I can only watch one at a time. No matter how many there are to choose from, I’ll only see on my screen what my tuner is set to in that moment. This great TV analogy always helps me grasp that it’s how I tune my focus and my thinking that determines what scenes, images, and experiences play out on the screen of my life.
A lot of people experience the hardest parts of sobriety during the holidays — when family, friends, constant partying around alcohol and substances, and even past traumas from this time of the year — all seem to be in full force. The holidays may be an extremely difficult time, and experiencing them through sobriety (for the first time, or for the thirtieth!) can sometimes feel daunting. Everyone’s journey is different, but I wanted to be able to share some of my coping mechanisms with you in the hopes that it might help. Whether you yourself are sober, or you know someone who is newly sober, I hope you find these tips helpful in your own way. I like to call them my ‘tool kit’ for living.
On airplanes large or small, I go to any lengths for an aisle seat. Probably left over from my drinking days when I was restless, fidgety, and impatient. Not to mention the need for frequent bathroom trips from the steady stream of liquids I consumed. Nor my passive/aggressive emotions toward any seat mates I had to climb over. No room for error in aisle seat attainment…
Strong boundaries are the foundation of my self-care. I began by saying no to a glass of wine, but now I’m able to say no to other uncomfortable holiday activities… When I look at my calendar in December, I often feel like I might hyperventilate. This holiday season, I encourage you to listen to your own little voice. Set boundaries, take care of yourself, and remember… Your sobriety is the best gift you can give to yourself and your loved ones.
Right here and right now, I recognize there is one mystical magical power that knows when I am sleeping and knows when I’m awake. It is the all-knowing intelligence and power that is always omnipresent, not just at this magical time of year. It is my Higher Power, my Highest Power. I close my eyes and sense it within; I open my eyes and sense it all around me, in people, places, and things. With this awareness, I see everything in a new light.
Addiction causes changes within your brain that rob you of the ability to feel joy without the presence of alcohol or drugs. One of the biggest challenges of recovery is finding new ways to have fun. You may even have to force yourself to do things while your brain chemistry returns to normal. But here’s the good news – if you “fake it ‘til you make it”, you will find that engaging in healthy, positive activities can promote the natural production of your body’s “feel-good” chemicals. You will start enjoying yourself IN SPITE of yourself…